Olympic: Ikarus Blues (Supraphon, 1968)

26 Nov

Like Báječné místo, already included here, Ikarus Blues is a song on Olympic’s second LP, Pták Rosomák (The Wolf-Bird), and – like its predecessor – appears to hold a Prague Spring subtext that ensured its parent LP’s removal from circulation during the ‘normalisation’ period of Gustáv Husák. The lyric’s retelling of the myth of Icarus, whose aspiration to fly was thwarted by the Gods and too close a proximity to the Sun, is here freighted with political significance, subtle but fairly hard to miss regardless. Musically, with its wordless vocal passages (not reflected in this version), inventive studio guitar work and droning sitars, this is certainly among Olympic’s best songs: the Czech lyric can be read here and the song itself can be heard here.

Ikarus Blues (Icarus Blues)

(after Pavel Chrastina/Ladislav Klein, 1968)

A pair of wings is a wonderful gift –
Who forgot to give them to us?
The sun spoke, and – well, you know how it’s been:
we couldn’t bear to hear the words.
Who knows your name now? Everyone.
All say “Icarus is the sun”.
He took off, my friend, so long ago
the years between are filled with longing
for the wings Icarus always wore.

But maybe anyone here could fly?
All of us understand that desire,
born with fear of that first fall
as we toddled, barefoot and very small,
on rugs or waxed wooden floors
around our childhood homes…
Maybe now we will win our share,
feather our arms, glue our whole lives
with candlewax to this altar-stone.

But Icarus – he knows the long fall,
the dark night burned by the sun,
knows how capricious mighty gods,
queasy with ambrosia, can sometimes be.
Up there is the butter of soft red wax
as the sun melts human wings
and an ocean swirls, so far below
he is falling still. Will that crash be heard?
One day, the sound will frighten me.

Soon, perhaps, when the sea calms
we’ll find wool and feathers washed ashore.
Crowds of children pick them up,
take them home to weave hopes from.
Till then, you’d dream those fragments
sliding from the arms of a man who flew;
maybe catch a glimpse of better days
in that moment he stays, poised in the air,
free of all gravity, before the fall.

It’s my friend, Icarus, who sings this blues,
hero of men, enemy of distant gods
who’d prefer to fight among themselves.
A pair of wings is a wonderful gift –
Who forgot to give them to us?
The sun spoke, and – well, you know how it’s been:
we couldn’t bear to hear the words.
Who knows his name now? Everyone.
All say “Icarus touched the sun”.

But Icarus – he knows the long fall,
the dark night burned by the sun,
knows how capricious mighty gods,
queasy with ambrosia, can sometimes be.
Up there is the butter of soft red wax
as the sun melts human wings
and an ocean swirls, so far below
he is falling still. See his body, spinning down.
One day, Icarus might hit the ground.

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